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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

That plate of food you put in the fridge last week... and other writerly matters.

Ever put some leftover food in the fridge and forgotten about it for several days? It’s a distasteful subject, but it’s a metaphor I often use when trying to describe my feelings upon returning to a piece of half-completed writing.

I started on this latest Mike Pannett book way back in May, producing the standard sample-plus-synopsis package for our agent and publisher. I then had to put aside the two long chapters I’d written (17,000 words in total) for what turned out to be four or five months while we waited for decisions to be made. Last week I girded the old loins and cranked out the first draft of a third chapter - and prepared myself for the fourth. Today, having waited several days for the arrival of an audio tape containing the required material, I plan to start on that. Of course, like any writer in this position, I find myself casting around for other, more appealing jobs to tackle. Unblocking the drains? Turning the compost heap? Licking the monthly accounts into shape? How about cleaning the shower-tray? The oven? (Nope, we did that last week…)

When I’m writing a book such as this one, I feel I’m inhabiting another world. Indeed, I think a writer needs to inhabit another world if he or she is to create a tangible reality in which the story will unfold. I often spend some part of the morning re-entering that place - especially if it’s a Monday and I’ve been away from it for two full days. That accounts for the fact that in midweek I can be seen wandering about the house with a frown on my face, responding vaguely to conversational prompts, and appearing to be… absent.  

At such times it’s quite a struggle to find a positive thought, but I cheered myself last night by registering all my published titles with ALCS, the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society ( This splendid outfit hunts down monies due to writers from the many sources where our work is copied, broadcast or otherwise exploited, and sends out occasional payments. It was a tedious business, filling in the details of over a dozen books, but there was a real pleasure in seeing them stacked up (on the floor). It was a reminder, I suppose, that no matter how much one bleats about the struggle ahead, there is some kind of reward and satisfaction awaiting….

Meanwhile, outside, the sun is blazing down from a November sky - well, blazing horizontally from its  midwinter position, which at this latitude is not very far above the horizon; the temperature is mild, and those stubborn leaves which cling to the trees offer a vivid splash of colour. In here, in my office, the blank space on my screen under the heading “Chapter 4” awaits a few tender key-strokes. That’s all it takes.

So, let us away to Battersea, and wind back the clock to… 1989. Lash, lash!

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